Peter Bart Denies Covering for Harvey Weinstein: I Was Protecting Variety

Peter Bart, who for 20 years ran Variety as its top editor, called to discuss the accusation that he covered for Harvey Weinstein when both men were among the most powerful folks in Hollywood.

It’s not as simple as that, he explained.

“Because Harvey had so many ferocious business enemies over the 20 years that I was running Variety, every year at this time of year I’d get at least one or two reporters come tell me that ‘Harvey will never make it through the season, he’s bankrupt, he won’t pay his bills,'” Bart said.

“Whereupon my policy was to say: ‘Let’s run the story if you can nail it. But if you can’t, then let’s not,'” Bart said. “The trouble is over a period of decades at the last minute he always pulled it together, so we couldn’t run the story that Harvey was out of business.”

He went on: “The trouble is we couldn’t nail it. Was that protecting Harvey? I was protecting Variety from being sued.”

In the Tuesday piece, “The Most Powerful Journalist In Hollywood Protected Harvey Weinstein For Years,” HuffPost reporters Jason Cherkis and Maxwell Strachan said that Bart reveled in his access to Weinstein and enforced a widely known — but unspoken — newsroom rule against negative coverage of the film executive and his companies, first Miramax and then The Weinstein Company.

A Variety insider told TheWrap: “The trades were kind of a gray area of journalism in the ’80s and ’90s. Today if you look at the kinds of reporters and editors at [the Hollywoood Reporter] and Variety, they’re top-notch journalists.”

The role of a trade editor is a delicate one, and I’m in no position to judge what Bart did or did not do. But I can vouchsafe that stories of the mogul’s imminent demise — usually financial — would frequently surface. And Harvey Weinstein would always pull it out.

Bart is now in his 80s, and is a columnist for Deadline. He ran Variety in its heyday, from 1989 to 2009. It’s worth pointing out, as others have, that Miramax published two of his books, “Dangerous Company: Dark Tales from Tinseltown, a collection of short stories” and  “Boffo! Hollywood in the Trenches: How I Learned to Love the Blockbuster and Fear the Bomb.”

If Bart didn’t cover for Weinstein, I asked him, why does he think that former staffers are saying that he did? “I have no idea,” said Bart. “It’s absurd.”

As for the sexual assault allegations against the disgraced mogul, Bart said, “I did not know this other character existed. That’s the sad thing.”

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